Prozac is part of a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs for short. SSRIs act on a specific chemical within the brain known as serotonin. This is one of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin. The serotonin enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough serotonin reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin that remains in the gap between cells. This is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. When the levels of serotonin become unbalanced, however, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression. Prozac helps block the reuptake of serotonin so more remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the serotonin a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
Several studies have looked at the effects of Prozac on a variety of conditions.
Studies have shown Prozac to be effective for depression treatment in children, teens, and adults. These studies included children as young as eight years old. Another study showed that a long-acting form (Prozac Weekly) was also effective for treating depression in adults.
In studies, 28 percent of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) who took Prozac felt their OCD was "much improved," compared to only 8 percent of those who were not taking it. None of the people taking the medication felt that their OCD was worse, compared to 8 percent of people not on Prozac. In other studies, the drug was also shown to be effective for OCD in children and teens.